WITH A MAGICIAN OF CAIRO 85
disgusted me and I preferred not to avail myself of their alleged benefits. He immediately promised that there would be no blood-letting whatsoever, and on this assurance I yielded.
Once again I kicked up little dust-clouds as I walked through the narrow lane leading to the aged magician's rambling old house. This time I had come from the Poultry Bazaar which lies a short way behind the Ataba el Khadra Square, a plump little white fowl tucked under my right arm. I could feel the warm beating of its breast under the pressure of my hand and 1 wondered what malign fate the old man had designed for it.
When I arrived, the magician's face lost its usual gravity and broke into a smile. He expressed his pleasure at my obedience to his request. He asked me to set the fowl down in the centre of the floor-rug and then step three times over an incense brazier which stood in a corner. Having done this and passed through the cloud of fragrant smoke, I settled down on the divan and watched both man and bird. The former took a sheet of paper and drew a small square upon it, which was next subdivided into nine smaller squares. Within each of the latter he inscribed a kabbalistic sign or Arabic letter. Then he began to mutter some half-audible mystic incantation, with eyes fixedly regarding the fowl, while now and then his whispers were punctuated by a commanding gesture of the forefinger of his right hand, which was stretched out as though he were issuing an order. The poor creature became frightened and ran off into a corner of the room, where it took refuge underneath a chair. The magician thereupon asked me to seize it and bring it back to the centre of the floor. I did not care to- touch it again and told him so. His son, who had now come in and joined us, captured the bird and put it down at the point whence it had fled.
Once more it twisted about and made as if to run back to the corner a second time, when the magician commanded it in a firm voice to return.
The fowl stopped at once.
I then noticed that it started to tremble all over its body, so that the feathers shook to and fro.
The magician asked me to step three times over the incense brazier, as I had done before. When I returned to the divan I